Amber Ojak explains why communication is key in attracting patients back to the dental practice after COVID-19.
COVID-19 has shaken up the dental world since lockdown began in March. Many of us are wondering if dentistry will change forever.
For us as professionals, I think one of the key things to focus on is communication with our patients. We are still unsure about what lies ahead in terms of treating patients. But they will be just as anxious about what dentistry will look like after COVID-19.
There is still a lot of speculation over the procedures put into place. I think sometimes we forget about our patients and whether they will be confident coming back into our practices.
As dental professionals we know ourselves dentistry’s cleanliness and decontamination procedures are some of the highest in healthcare. But patients may not be aware of what goes on to maintain these standards. Hence why it becomes more important than ever to communicate with them.
I believe patients will firstly want evidence-based information that their appointments will be as safe as they were before COVID-19. And that their risk of contracting the disease is minimal in our setting.
Patients will know how we work in close proximity to their mouths and may question if we take extra precautions to reduce the risk. Patients may also wonder about personal protective equipment, social distancing and any other new guidance put in place.
Dentistry is a high risk job for contracting COVID-19. So it is understandable why they may wonder about these things. I think as a dental team we need to address these questions and we may need to use different communication methods to do so. We could present this information as informative leaflets covering what changes have been put in place. As well as sending out videos which show a run through on how appointments will work. We may also communicate with patients via telephone calls and online virtual appointments.
We need to reassure patients that we are still thinking about them and want to put them at ease as much as possible. Communicating the changes will show them how we are doing our upmost to protect them.
I believe we may need to give patients time to come to grips with changes that we implement. Calling them via video call or telephone means they do not have to come into the practice. We can take the time to answer any questions they may have. Dedicating extra time to help explain things may cause an increase in patients coming back for their normal appointments. They won’t experience any surprises when they arrive.
The use of video calls may also open up a new method of accessing dental services for dental phobic and anxious patients. This would prevent patients having to build the courage to come into our practices and may reduce their anxiety. It would allow them to speak to a professional online. Starting with this method may then make them willing to attend a dental appointment if they are familiar with the clinician.
In addition, the use of social media is growing in our lives. The effective use of social media by practices may strengthen communication links with our patients.
In preparation for returning to practice, teams could post videos of members of staff talking about different aspects of the practice. For example, how social distancing measures may be in place.
Practices can also upload photos if the practice has undergone any physical changes, such as tape on the floor or screens at reception.
Some patients will be quite apprehensive about returning to dental practices. We need to give them all the information they need to make this decision for themselves.
Overall there are many things we still do not know, but one thing we do know is how communication will be key in reassuring our patients and encouraging them to come back to dental practices. There are many different forms of communication we can use. But as long as we are increasing our communication with patients it will ease the impact COVID-19 may have on their confidence in us.